Teaching Cybersecurity in a Shifting Technology Landscape
Questions and Answers with James Rice, Cybersecurity Faculty Instructor at Mohawk Valley Community College and Cybersecurity Analyst at Quanterion Solutions Incorporated
To kick off Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week, Quanterion Solutions interviewed Cybersecurity Faculty Instructor James Rice (Mohawk Valley Community College) to explore today’s challenges and opportunities in cybersecurity education. Rice has been a cybersecurity educator since 2011.
James, what are some challenges with cybersecurity education today?
“The biggest challenge with cybersecurity education is probably keeping pace with the newest technologies in the field. As a cybersecurity instructor, I see firsthand the rate in which technology changes. That rate of change is faster than any individual can keep up with and it’s still picking up speed. The cybersecurity industry is really up there in terms of one of the most dynamic career fields.”
How do you stay on top of the changes in the industry?
“I value current events because they help you stay in touch with the latest in the field. Involvement in cybersecurity-focused events is really important.”
Do you enjoy teaching cybersecurity?
“I definitely enjoy teaching because the cybersecurity field experiences such rapid changes. It’s also fulfilling to me because cybersecurity faces a shortage in qualified professionals, and I enjoy educating an army of students who can help fill the gap.
“I consider myself a morale-type agent for getting people more involved in cybersecurity and attract young people to the field.”
How have you seen the cybersecurity landscape change over the years?
“I’ve probably seen the change in two really big ways over the last decade. The most obvious change is the staggering amount of information that has shifted to online platforms.
“The wealth of personal information floating in cyberspace has triggered the next major change in the industry, which is that the average person is becoming consciously aware that their data is available. It’s raised awareness about the need for protecting one’s personal data, and suddenly the cybersecurity industry becomes much more visible.
“The public opinion matters when we consider cybersecurity in terms of data security. People understand that their personal data can be compromised, and that’s becoming a major concern for them. Cybersecurity professionals must increasingly consider people’s concerns and privacy rights.”
What cybersecurity opportunities have surfaced through the changes we’ve seen in 2020?
“Cybersecurity continues to be an industry that thrives in conflict and chaos. Whenever we have a crisis, we have to deal with it and eventually the system becomes more resilient. COVID-19 is just one example of turning to technology to help solve a crisis, and that’s when cybersecurity becomes much more important. We continue to turn more and more to technology to help us solve the problems.
“But that’s what technology companies continue to do – they find solutions to problems that arise and that’s where the opportunity lies. I’d fear a society with no crises because the cybersecurity industry would become stagnant without the challenges and innovations that they bring.”
What’s the most important thing you teach your students about cybersecurity?
“The most crucial thing I try to teach my students is that anything they want to learn is publicly available. I’m always emphasizing to students that they need to create an environment for themselves where they can learn to ask more questions and explore what they’re passionate about in cybersecurity.
“The cybersecurity field has a wide variety of jobs and students have to be willing to try and fail before their find their niche.”
What’s your advice for young people interested in entering today’s cybersecurity field?
“It’s important to have an educational background in coding and infrastructure. I’d suggest students take pre-calculus or more in high school; I don’t think students can take enough math if they want to become a cybersecurity professional.
“The most important thing I can tell young people starting out in cybersecurity is to create an environment that allows you to test and explore your passions in the industry.”
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